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It’s a Start

Just finished walking.  It’s hot out there!  I literally just wiped a drop of forehead sweat off the keyboard.  Word to the wise, don’t eat a salty meal and then walk a 5K in 100 degree heat.  I have Mickey Mouse hands.  My wedding ring isn’t coming off any time soon.  That’s for sure!

The kids are taking it hard, too.  Hunter developed what he called “a nasty belly sweat,” and Hope is still a lovely shade of burgundy.  I tried motivating the kids by reminding them that the Van Trapp children walked across the Alps (I think) and didn’t complain.  They reminded me that the mountains are cold.  I tried. While we were out, I tried to distract myself by thinking about other things, and I remembered my dad taking me to the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church Duncan when I was a kid.  If I remember correctly, sixteen laps around the track was a mile, and my dad would jog about three miles, keeping track of his laps on a counter.

I didn’t need any motivation to run with him.

The first time I got my own counter, I felt free.  I didn’t have to wait on Dad any more.  I could go as fast as I wanted, and I was convinced that I was faster than Dad.  I took off at a dead sprint and lapped him in no time.  He chuckled.  I ran a couple more laps that way before I felt it at all.  I remember thinking to myself that my poor dad must be embarrassed that his elementary school daughter knew so much more about running than he did. I decided not to embarrass him and slowed my pace just a bit, waving at him and smiling every time I passed.  He smiled with his lips closed, which usually meant he was either frustrated and trying to hide it or knew something I didn’t.  I felt a little guilty for showing him up and frustrating him. By the time I’d run just over a half mile, I was beat.  I slowed to a jog-walk and then a walk. My dad passed me, and I tried to pick up my pace.  My legs were jelly, I was breathing hard, and I could feel my pulse in my head, so I sat down, defeated and embarrassed. I waited for my dad to shake his head at me or laugh.  He didn’t.  Instead, he waited a few laps and then motioned for me to join him.  I think he even slowed a little so I could catch up. “Find a nice, easy pace,” he coached.  “Keep your shoulders and hands relaxed and just let your arms swing.  Keep your elbows in.” It took a few minutes to get the hang of it. “That’s right,” he continued.  “Now breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  In two counts, out two counts.  If you need to, do three each way.” I think I kept up with him for another mile or so, but that’s all I could manage after my Wilma Rudolph impersonation.  It was a start.

Thousands of kids have come through Falls Creek and other church camps this summer.  As they should be, they are excited about what God has done in their hearts.  They understand that, with God, all things are possible, and they can’t wait to change the world!  More power to them.  I know they can, and I hope they do.  In fact, I hope a lot of older folks will catch a vision from these young people and remember what it’s like not just to follow Jesus, but to pursue Him with all they have. Here is my concern, though.  Human beings are only equipped to maintain a sprint for so long, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual.  We are jars of clay, remember?  Well, these kids don’t.  They haven’t lived as long as the rest of us, and they might struggle a little when they start to feel the effects of long-term, die-hard obedience to God. They could become discouraged.  They might even give up.  Many do.  Why?  Lots of reasons.  Sometimes it’s because they don’t have anyone to encourage them when they falter.  Sometimes it’s because no one teaches them how to develop spiritual disciplines that will sustain them.  Sometimes it’s because people dismiss their camp experience, calling it a spiritual “high,” a hint of laughter in their voices.  By the way, a spiritual “high” is not a bad thing.  It is not a false experience or an emotional response.  It is simply a sprinting start to a marathon run. Maybe we should take my dad’s approach.  When normalcy sets in for these kids–notice that I didn’t say “reality” because what they are experiencing now is very real–and they miss a step or two, maybe we should make more of an effort to encourage them without making them feel silly.  Let’s motion them to our side and, with gentleness and patience, show them what it means to walk with Jesus and finish strong.

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